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Imaginative film showing how automatic gadgets in homes and workplaces alienate people from one another.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: University of Southern Califonia (student film)
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W
Keywords: Technology: Critiques; Automation; Consumerism
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Telephone Step Office
This film has a short clip of a telephone step office in action along with the old pulse dialer.
Subject: Dark and Darker
This film is intended to be a warning more than anything. New technology was hitting the common man increasingly the decade after World War II. The noises, clicks and whirls tend to drown out the silence and words between us.
I was 10 years old in 1958. My father was an industrial engineer and made good money. We had brand new cars, modern up to date furniture and five kids. My mother wore aprons, but owned her own seamstress design shop. My dad was president of the coin collecting club, very active in the community and my mother as well. She sewed a great deal of our clothes and household decor.
We had a record player, a toaster, a percolator, new washing machine (no dryer yet)...and a radio in the kitchen. We got a television in 1955.
We lived in Ohio.
However, our busy active family DID NOT have the following:
A DISHWASHER!! (though middle-class...they truly weren't affordable yet)
A radio-car phone (are you kidding? Only my uncle the Superintendent of the Cincinnati Water Works had that) I never saw one outside of his and the police.
Did not have two clocks on the bedroom bureau. (my mother was so vigilant and busy....not necessary)
No electric razor.
Most men preferred the old way. I saw dozens of them growing up.
NO TV DINNERS!! I'm not sure where this concept came from....it certainly runs its course as an icon of that time period.
I lived in 5 states by the time I was 16 and I cannot remember a single one in all our homes, or my friends. I had wealthy friends in some cities....very wealthy. TV dinners just weren't the norm. Though it's in this film....even then it was touted as "the thing" to do in modernity I believe.
We had Jiffy Pop and Velveeta. We did consider these products luxurious modern convenience foods.
With five children (and many families had 3 or more back then) it was not practically affordable for a family to buy TV dinners.
We ate home-cooked meat and potatoes meals. Even homemade dessert (though my mother was definitely not a saint...).
We did however have an ice-cream man....he was older, safe and friendly. We went out to get the ice cream without adult supervision.
It was okay back then.
Subject: 1950's ennui
I was expecting a bigger finish like the husband comes home and the wife has left him or better yet everyone gets fried in a nuclear holocaust. This film is trying to portray the disconnected mechanized lives that this family is living. I was surprised that the doctor didn't prescribe tranquilizers for the wife's symptoms. Sales of Miltown and Equanil skyrocketed in the 50's. There were some really cool shots of machinery and some great historical shots of 1950's LA.
Subject: Depends on the Individual...
I'm not buying what the film is selling. My relatives, (I was born in 1958), laughed, danced, kissed, made love, played poker, pitched horseshoes, pinched asses, told jokes, got drunk, danced, sketched, discussed, read books and a million other things...in such surroundings, with modern conveniences, with stressful jobs, and houses to keep clean. They lived full, vibrant, happy lives in simular settings. The problem lies with the individuals in charge of their lives, not modernity.
Still Jinx -
Subject: So who - or what - do you love?
A superb treatment of "the modern life" in pre-transisterized L.A. The limits of human interaction for the father are a push of the button, nod of the head, mass media, or via telephone. The mother only speaks directly to her child one time - telling him it's time for bed. The son doesn't speak at all, and far prefers the company of his green glowing friend to any other, even other children. (Granted it could have been well over 100 degrees on a hot LA summer day, so playing is uncomfortable, and merely sitting still eating ice cream is the only relief.) No video games or Internet to create even an illusion of interaction.
No human touches another throughout the film.
Even so, this family is "living the good life". Father drives a new car, the home is furnished in amazing mid-century modern style , and their every convenience is repaired immediately when needed. They're even a "two alarm family"! Food is plentiful and affordable, yet the choices made - or not made - indicate a definite lack of nutritional knowledge or availability.
Interestingly, the mother is told by the doctor that "there is no organic cause" for her "not feeling well". I would hazard a LACK of organics in her life is a major cause. The son is the only one in this film to see daylight, and that only long enough to get an ice cream. He then goes back to the tv. No fresh or colored food is seen. The only animal is one cat frightened by father's car horn. The only time spent "in nature" is when father gets his evening paper off the well manicured and automatically sprinklered lawn. It's not that mother isn't feeling well, but rather that she is having no feelings at all. A simple application of mother's little helper after her next doctor's appointment should fix her right up...
What the son is learning about relationships and family dynamics is appalling, but probably moot as he will most likely die in Viet Nam.
The parents are of the age to have been infants in the latter part of the Depression, and children during the War. Coming out of the Lost Generation, and through the terrors of war may certainly have colored their personalities with unnamed fears of loss and poverty, and instilled the "virtues" of stoic suffering and hard work.
Only one time does the mother even appear to do housework, when she rinses the dishes and puts them in the automatic washer. Yet the house is pristine, organized, and on a certain schedule.
This film is full of wonderful small clips of automated machinery, relays, pulleys, buttons all "working the world" around our hapless players. Very fascinating and fun to see.
Has the change from solid state to digital machinery allowed us to have a better life?
Would this family love each other if they didn't have all these machines? It appears their problems run much deeper than time saving tools! So tell your computer and Xbox that you love them. Then get up and hug your SO!
Subject: Right on!
Everyone has free will, but with a little fear or compliance, and a bit of repetition we can be conditioned into about any routine, any frame of thought, any belief system, and any destructive social habits.
It would seem that up to this point, a human's will or free will and self awareness always falls secondary to man's will to by hypnotised!
Ryan Mast -
Subject: "Life is just a series of sensations, some to be desired, others to be avoided."
Many of the archived films on this site from this era are very obvious and direct in the message and filmmaking style. "Have I Told You" is quite unique for this era in its effective use of creative camera angles, rich irony, and silence.
Despite all of the modern conveniences, communication technology, transportation, and entertainment, the family is so dysfunctional that no device can help them or make them happier. They are surrounded with the best of their times (which makes for fascinating historical reference or video sampling), which gives them more opportunity than ever to interact with each other. Yet, they CHOOSE not to. Instead, each of them absorbs themself in some petty device, technology or entertainment -- the husband with his cigarette holder, the boy in the TV, and wife in all of her time-saving kitchen appliances.
The greatest irony of the film comes at the end, as the wife is watching TV, interspersed with shots of the husband eating his TV dinner. The couple on TV talk about how much they love each other, enjoy talking to each other, and how they feel safe together... while the husband and wife in the film coldly walk past each other. They have everything of their time, yet fall short of its idea.
Subject: Life is Nothing but a Series of Sensations . . .
A bleak film about how the mechanized quality of everyday life diminishes human interactions. We follow a lonely family through their day, where dad, mom and son interact with clocks, cars, telephones, coffeepots, radio and television instead of each other. Have all these objects made their life so dismal, or do they simply amplify a sense of estrangement that was already there? The wifeÃÂs life seems the most desolate; sheÃÂs home alone all day with a dead-eyed son who does nothing but watch TV. SheÃÂs got health problems and takes a long drag on her cigarette as she talks to her doctor. The husband seems to have the best of it, at least he gets out of the house all day. But when he comes home, thereÃÂs nothing but a TV dinner for him; his wife is obviously too depressed to cook. Refreshingly for the fifties, the film doesnÃÂt blame the wife for the familyÃÂs predicament. SheÃÂs a victim of modern life like everybody else. And who knows? Maybe at one point, she got up and made her husbandÃÂs breakfast before he went to work and slaved over home-cooked meals. But with an unappreciative husband and son, she eventually gave up.
Subject: Automation can alienate
This film warns that modern technology can isolate peeople. It goes to negative extremes. This film was made in 1958. We have advanced even more now, but plenty of people are still communicating. It's how you deal with things.
Subject: Early Zombie Flick?
The folks are zombified! It is not that technology gets in the way of them communicating with one another, they simply choose not to. There were plenty of opportunities for interpersonal communication, but they seem to be in so much of a daze that they can't take advantage of them. If they were really this far gone, they would not be able to function.
This is a very grim look at technology and automation. Too much so. Its like the mom had a lobotomy!
I do like the final shot, however. **Possible Spoiler** The father's lighter does not work and he has to take out an old fashioned match to get his cigarette lit.
Very depressing and unrealistic.
Subject: A swell film about a not so swell existance.
Odd, strangely depressing, weird.
I like this thing, whatever it is...
Subject: Cold, heartless and fascnating.
A very odd and troubling film, which, on the surface seems to tell about how wonderful automation is in 1958 America. But, as time goes on, what it REALLY is about is how automation seems to have detached everyone from everyone else. Very little is said to one other directly. Whenever someone DOES say something to each other it's either a) through technology or b) not responded to at all. The Husband, Wife, and Child in the film never seem to converse to each other (except when the Mother tells the kid to go to bed, the kid doesnt answer, he just goes off).
Has technology led us to be robots in our normal social lives? Even at the end of the film, when the husband gets a cigarette from a gawdy cigarette carousel, he's not impressed with it at all, it's just there to give him a smoke.
It's a very peculiar subject, which is well documented in this film. This is a MUST SEE on this site, but be warned, it's not upbeat.
Steve Nordby -
Subject: Technology in modern life - the b/w version
Had Jacques Tati made American industrial film noir, it would look like this.